Gentle Rain in South Africa

The parents of a murdered young American woman helped South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission live up to its name this week. Peter and Linda Biehl brought mercy like Shakespeare's "gentle rain from heaven" to a "place beneath" that needs all it can get.

They heard a plea for forgiveness as well as amnesty from the four black youths who killed their daughter Amy in 1993. She was a Fulbright scholar pursuing her own reconciling role of helping with voter registration in the nation's first all-race election.

The murderers, serving 18-year prison sentences, could get amnesty under certain prescribed circumstances.

The Biehls properly said the legal question of amnesty was for South Africa to decide, and the commission is considering it. But they themselves would not oppose amnesty, whether or not truth was now being told by the young men who had changed their previous testimony.

The Biehls, without making a point of it, seemed to know, as Shakespeare did, that mercy is "twice bless'd;/It blesses him that gives and him that takes."

If bereaved parents can display it, who cannot?

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